Conservative politicians across the country are “standing up” for the Common Man.
This is his year.
Great, but who is he? Why are conservatives concerned about his plight and taken up his fight?
Many politicians have offered answers to these questions, but few have been as clear as Andre Chabot, Calgary councillor and the newest entrant to the Calgary mayoral race.
The birth of the Common Man
The Common Man became a political ideal in 1828 when Andrew Jackson defeated John Quincy Adams to become the seventh president of the United States. Jackson was the first self-made politician to oust an aristocratic incumbent by arguing an education was unnecessary for political leadership.
Politicians have courted the Common Man ever since.
The characteristics of the Common Man
Mr Chabot says his platform will appeal to the Common Man. He promises to hold property tax increases to the consumer price index and questions the efficacy of “handouts” for the poor.
But an analysis of Mr Chabot’s rationale reveals some alarming things about the Common Man:
Policy: Mr Chabot says the government should focus on fiscal responsibility not social spending.
Apparently, the Common Man wants nothing but the basics from his government—police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, nurses, and buildings to house them and roads, tunnels, and bridges to get to them. The Common Man is a taxpayer, not a citizen; as such he’s prepared to pay taxes but only if they’re tied to the consumer price index.
Analysis: the Common Man is self-reliant but naïve. If his taxes don’t cover the cost of policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc he’d rather be unprotected, uneducated, unhealthy, and stuck in his driveway than pay another red cent in taxes.
Mr Chabot says “hand-outs” kill initiative (but “hand-ups” might be okay). He says if someone told him to go “on pogie” when he was supporting his family and working his way through DeVry he’d have stopped working, kicked back, and enjoyed a few beers.
Analysis: the Common Man is both hardworking and prepared to ditch it all.
World view: Mr Chabot grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. He moved to Calgary in 1971, took a job in construction and worked his way through DeVry while raising three kids with his wife who also worked part-time. He says he didn’t need anyone to help him out and the struggle made him a better person.
Analysis: The Common Man’s world view is based on n=1. His sample size is one (himself). His personal experience informs his opinion on everything.
The Common Man does not consider how he would have fared if he’d been a single mother, a member of a visible minority or physically or mentally challenged. He doesn’t wonder whether he would have survived today, 46 years after the conservatives squandered each and every energy boom and failed to create a revenue structure capable of weathering the busts.
He doesn’t realize that if he had to do it all over again in 2017 he would be struggling to support his family on $42,000/year which is the average annual income for DeVry graduates.
Interestingly, Calgary households earning less than $45,000/year are eligible for subsidized programs. One wonders whether the Common Man would applaud such subsidies as a “hand-up” or condemn them as a “hand-out”.
Analysis: The Common Man may have initiative, but he’s also tremendously lucky—he was born at a certain time and equipped with certain chromosomes that gave him an advantage not available to many others.
Mr Chabot says he understands “there’s a social need out there”, but points out it’s not the City’s responsibility to address those needs because Calgarians need to “hold the government who’s responsible to account and get them to step up to the plate.”
Presumably the responsible government is the provincial government.
Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, both of whom aspire to be the leader of Alberta’s conservatives, say social issues are not their concern. They attack the NDP government for policies aimed at addressing social issues (see the rhetoric around Bill 1 which will reduce mandatory school fees).
Analysis: social issues are hot potatoes tossed back and forth from one conservative to another until they land in the Common Man’s lap, sadly there’s nothing he can do about them.
Conservatives love the Common Man
It’s no surprise conservative politicians love the Common Man.
He doesn’t ask for much and has been suckered into believing that the market place will solve everything. When it fails to do so, he can be convinced that the responsibility for providing even the frailest social safety net falls on somebody else.
Silly little common man.